'We made the turn, through political scandals and bankruptcy,' said Larry Alexander, president of the convention and visitors bureau. 'We are ahead of bookings for all years.' (David Coates / Detroit News)
Detroit — Convention bookings and hotel room nights in Metro Detroit are up 208 percent for 2014 and 2015 compared with 2013, the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau reported Wednesday.
At its annual meeting in the newly revamped ballroom of Cobo Center, officials said the convention bureau set a record for rooms booked in the region for upcoming conventions. Metro Detroit has booked 236,000 hotel room nights for 2014, compared with 129,000 during 2103. For 2015, 165,000 room nights already are booked, with another 258,000 in various stages of the bid process.
“We made the turn, through political scandals and bankruptcy,” said Larry Alexander, president of the convention and visitors bureau. “We are ahead of bookings for all years.”
The gains comes as the long-awaited $279 million renovation and expansion of Cobo is 80 percent complete, which has already sparked a hotel boom downtown and throughout the region. Increased bookings at the revamped Cobo and the addition of hundreds of new hotel rooms sparked the gains, convention officials said.
Some of the major conventions already booked for Detroit including at a Jehovah’s Witnesses gathering expected to attract 90,000 attendants this July. In 2015, the USA Volleyball Open National Championships is expected to bring 10,000 people to the region.
With nearly 600 new hotel rooms opening downtown between now and the beginning of 2015, in addition to the 1,791 rooms in the city’s three casino hotels — plus the Westin Book Cadillac and the Hilton’s DoubleTree — investors, developers and hoteliers are betting conventioneers will come.
The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center is undergoing a $30 million renovation, and the long-shuttered Hotel Pontchartrain re-opened last year as the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Convention Center after the former “Pontch” underwent a $5 million renovation.
Also in the works are two boutique hotels. The first would be directly across from the Crowne Plaza in the old Detroit Fire Department headquarters. Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group hopes to convert the brick firehouse into a 75- to 80-room boutique hotel.
Farther from Cobo, the David Whitney Building on Grand Circus Park is being renovated into a 136-room Aloft David Whitney, which would be part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.